Warren Buffett's Complete Sun Valley CNBC Interview - Transcript and Video
JULIA: So where is that dividing line? Is it 200-hundred thousand dollars? Does that make sense as a -
BUFFETT: I think it should be more progressive the higher up you go. But I think it's ridiculous when my tax on capital gains is less than the payroll tax on what you're earning today.
JULIA: What do you think some of the other people here would say about that?
BUFFETT: Well, you'll have to ask them. (Smiles.) Some of them would agree. No, a lot of them would agree. They wouldn't like it. Nobody likes having their taxes increase. I don't like having my taxes increase. But on the other hand, we're raising 2.3, something like that, trillion. We may spend four-trillion. There's going to have to be some adjustment made someplace and I think it's better to adjust it, to some degree, on guys like me rather than on the people who gave me breakfast this morning.
JULIA: How long -- do you think taxes will go up in the near future?
BUFFETT: I don't know about the near future, but they will go up over time because we're not going to bring spending down from four-trillion to 2.3 trillion, and we're not going to take up revenues unless we -- it will be helped some when we get a recovery, but we'll need somewhat higher taxes someplace.
JULIA: So back to the health care issue. Speaking of taxes, one of the questions is whether to tax employer-provided health care. And this is a big issue of debate. What do you think?
BUFFETT: It will all be, there will be so many tradeoffs involved, it won't be a perfect bill. Nobody could design a perfect bill. So, you can't really look at one part of it until you're looking at other parts of it. So I don't have any magic answer on that.
JULIA: Another thing that we're hearing a lot about is the hospital industry has agreed to a lot of cost cuts. We've seen the pharmaceutical industry agree to a lot of discounts. Together, that amounts to hundreds of millions of dollars. How much are those kinds of compromises going to be to finding a health care solution?
BUFFETT: Well, they're going to be important. But they problem you have is you have a health care situation now where more than two-trillion dollars a year is being spent. That means two-trillion dollars is going to somebody, whether its doctors, nurses, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, you name it. Everyone is going to look at that bill and they're going to say, 'Am I getting more or less?' It's like a tax law change. Every line in the tax code has a constituency. Well, every dollar in medical expenses has a constituency, and that's the tough thing at the end. It will take a lot of leadership and some statesmanship on the part of people to get something. But it is a question that needs to be addressed.
JULIA: Now, in addition to health care, this year digital media and distribution of media and monetization of media has been a big topic of conversation here. Last year we talked about the Kindle and you were really enjoying your Kindle. What do you think is the big topic this year?
BUFFETT: Well, I'm here as part of their outreach program. I'm the village idiot in terms of this stuff. So they try everything out on me, if it gets past me any three-year-old can do it. I'm the wrong guy to ask ..
JULIA: Have they tried to get you to use something this year?
BUFFETT: People are always trying to get me to use things. Like I say, I will be the last guy around using a landline phone and reading a newspaper and doing all those things.
JULIA: Have you tried Twitter?
BUFFETT: I have not tried Twitter, although I met the fellow who, one of the co-founders of it, he's from a little town in Nebraska called Clark and he went to the University of Nebraska for a couple of years. So can't be all bad. (Laughs.)
JULIA: It can't be all bad. Now one question, since we're hearing a lot about watching television on the internet, have you ever watched TV on the internet?
BUFFETT: I haven't watch TV on the internet, but I have used the internet a lot. A lot.
JULIA: So, here, talking to media CEOs, talking to CEOs from a big range of businesses, the CEO of Coca-Cola , American Express , they're all here, what is the sense you're getting from them about the state of the economy?
BUFFETT: Well, they would see it the same way. The economy, they would probably say that the decline has stopped, most of them would say this in their business, but there's been no rebound. Now that doesn't mean there wouldn't be a further decline. It doesn't mean the rebound won't start tomorrow. But what they are seeing in their businesses is sort of a flat line after a big descent.
JULIA: Is there anything that you've heard here from these CEOs that surprised you?
BUFFETT: No, I wouldn't say that at all. They're seeing the same things I see. We're in about 70 businesses ourselves, and I've got CEOs of every one of those companies , so I've already talked to a lot of them before I got here.
JULIA: So I have to ask you a question --
BUFFETT: Uh oh. (Laughs.)
JULIA: I know that you are friends with LeBron James. I know he's a huge fan of your's. Yesterday I was chatting with him and he said he'd be game for a game of pickup basketball with any CEO, anyone here who is interested. Are you going to play pickup basketball with LeBron James?
BUFFETT: I've already done it. I played him in basketball a couple of year ago. We played for hours, and maybe I'll even reveal the results of that --
JULIA: Who won?
BUFFETT: Well, I will play him any game he wants to play as long as I get to keep score. (Laughs.) But I won't tell him my scoring method ahead of time.
JULIA: So there's no match here that's been planned?
BUFFETT: We're going to play golf, but not basketball.
JULIA: Is he a good golf player?
BUFFETT: He tells me he's never played. I've played 65 years and if you want to place a bet on either one of us, bet on him. (Laughs.) He's got a special set of clubs, though. Phil Knight at Nike gave him this special set of clubs, so who knows what it's going to be like.
JULIA: Maybe he'll be a big pro. Well, thank you so much for talking with us. I really appreciate it.
BUFFETT: It's been a pleasure. Thanks.
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